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Commissioner of Higher Education
addresses graduate students
March 30, 1998

The secret of a great university lies in the strength of its faculty members, and their willingness to be the very best they can be, said Andrew G. De Rocco, Commissioner of Department of Higher Education at a meeting of the Graduate Student Senate on March 23.

"Being a great university has more to do with attitude than with assets," he said.

He said that tuition waivers and scholarship offers may encourage students to stay in state to some extent, but the key to enhancing enrollment in institutions of higher education is to create an educational system so clearly differentiated and of such high quality and excellence that it not only encourages students to stay in their home state but also encourages students of merit from out of state to come in.

"I would not be worried about the efflux or migration of students out of state, but be interested in how many are brought into the state for higher education. The choice students make should be for the right reasons," De Rocco said.

He expressed concern about the ability of the present system of higher education to serve a greatly diverse demographic group, encompassing a wide range of ages, often with very specific needs.

"Higher education in Connecticut is not just about 18 to 23 year olds. It is about everybody," he said. "A better educated population has a greater chance of providing a 'world class' or a 'world power' citizenry," he said.

De Rocco added that children are the most precious assets in a society and that the educational system should provide for their appropriate mental growth at all stages.

"Parents and society should remain committed to the growth of their children in all dimensions," he said.

De Rocco identified five fundamental issues in higher education: the provision of an education that meets society's needs; providing a continuum of education at all levels; access and affordability; the economic equation between the state's responsibilities and the University's responsibilities in providing knowledge and employment; and the impact of technology on instructional methods.

He said the explosion in scientific knowledge and technology must be used appropriately in the educational system.

"It is important to define the legitimate role of technology in the delivery of information and knowledge, and in distance education. One should differentiate between communication of information and making actual sense in a classroom."

Before his appointment as commissioner of higher education in 1992, De Rocco was president of Denison University, Ohio, from 1984-1992; dean of the faculty at Trinity College, Hartford, from 1979-1984; and professor of physics at the University of Maryland from 1963 to 1979.

Usha R. Palaniswami